Though it's become a trendy term, detoxing is a specific biological sequence. Here's how it works — and ways to help it along.
"Your natural detox system needs to flow both constantly and efficiently."
These days, hearing the word "detox" or "cleanse" can prompt a suspicious side-eye glance — for good reason. Those terms can conjure up ideas of draconian juice fasts, unpalatable cayenne-pepper-infused cleanses and other dramatic protocols designed to eliminate so-called "toxins" from the body.
But "detox" isn't a dirty word in itself. In fact, detoxification is a necessary and natural process our bodies go through at all times, explains Frank Lipman, MD, Chief Medical Officer of THE WELL. Plus, methods of promoting detoxification have been around for thousands of years, from Native American sweat lodges to the saunas of Sweden and the Ayurvedic therapy called panchakarma from India, he notes, so it's not a new-fangled concept.
Why Do You Need Detox Support?
“A well-functioning detoxification system is essential because we are exposed to thousands of invisible yet insidious chemicals on a daily basis — in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and the products we put on our skin,” Lipman says.
Our bodies are naturally equipped to deal with low levels of some toxins; however, there has been a substantial increase in the number and level of toxins in the air, food supply and water supply and our natural cleansing systems are overtaxed. Case in point: In 1939, there were 32 active pesticidal ingredients registered with the federal government. Now, approximately 75,000 chemicals are now in common use. (Read this to learn more about how to decrease your exposure to everyday toxins.)
Not only are we exposed to external toxins, but our bodies also produce internal toxins — byproducts of natural biological processes — that can build up and become harmful over time, explains Lipman. The result? Without an effective detox system, toxins can accumulate, preventing our systems from operating at optimum strength and efficiency.
With that in mind, Lipman developed a gentle cleansing and detoxification program — THE WELL Cleanse — to help support your body's natural ability to do its job.
How the Two-Phase Detox Process Works
The kidneys, lungs, lymphatic system and skin are all involved in the complex detoxification system, Lipman says, but the bulk of the work is done by the intestinal tract and especially the liver. Detoxifying the body is a two-phase process — here's an (oversimplified) explanation:
Phase 1: Think of this as the activation phase, during which specialized enzymes in the body alter toxins to prepare them for Phase 2. They are converted into free radicals or other substances that must be eliminated quickly, as they can be even more harmful if they stay in this phase for too long.
Phase 2: During this phase, the body neutralizes the activated substances from Phase 1 and eliminates them from the system. The reactions in this phase need specific nutrients including amino acids (like the ones found in our Clean Green Protein) in order to successfully complete the process. The final products will be flushed out of the body via the urine or bile, which is part of solid waste.
There’s a careful balance between Phase 1 and Phase 2. For instance, when Phase 1 is working well and Phase 2 isn’t, your body has an overload of “intermediate” toxins and you may experience symptoms like chronic headaches, fatigue, a constant hangover-like feeling or sensitivity to drugs and chemicals, Lipman explains. (If you have ever done a detox before and felt worse, it’s probably because the Phase 2 process in your liver was suppressed.) This is exactly why it is essential to take nutrients to support your liver function, as you do on THE WELL Cleanse.
Signs You Need to Detox
To name just a few:
- Brain fog
- Skin irritation (rashes, acne, rosacea)
- Weight gain
Note: The primary reason to do a detox is to give your body’s systems a chance to restore their balance. You should take care not to overdo this process, which can create new imbalances.
Who Should Not Detox?
Doing a detox (such as THE WELL Cleanse), is not recommended for people who have a history of disordered eating, or who are exceptionally depleted of nutrients or fatigued. Pregnant or lactating women should not do a detox. People with weak hearts should not do a detox. Individuals with cancer should consult a knowledgeable practitioner before beginning a detox program. You also should not do a detox before surgery or for up to six weeks afterwards while your body is intensively healing.